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With the advent of New Year the next most awaited event which the entertainment industry, the connoisseurs of the seventh art and film lovers from all over the world gaze at is the gala award night the ‘Oscar award ceremony’.
The Academy Award, affectionately known, as the Oscar is the most prestigious award bestowed annually by the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) to honour the highest achievements in filmmaking.
The AMPAS, a professional honourary organisation based in Beverly Hills, California, was originally conceived by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studio boss Louis B. Mayer as a professional honorary organization to help improve the film industry’s image and help mediate labour disputes. The Academy later initiated the Oscar as an award "of merit for distinctive achievement" in the industry.
The oldest, best known, most influential, most prestigious, and famous of film awards recognize excellence of professionals in the film industry, including directors, actors,writers and film technicians like editors, sound engineers and music composers.
The Oscars have come a long way since the first ceremony was held on May 16, 1929, at the Hotel Roosevelt in which just 270 people attended. The guests had to pay USD 5 and thewinners were known ahead of time, three months before. The most recent ceremony, honouring films in 2010, was held at Hollywood's Kodak Theatre on February 27, 2011 making it thepermanent home for the Academy award ceremony.
Oscars are presented at a formal ceremony which is one of the most high-profile film awardceremonies in the world. The precursor to the award function is the ‘Red Carpet’ event where who’s who of Hollywood showcases glamour via their sizzling fashion statement giving enough meat to the paparazzi to continue the déjà vu for the next few days.
Since the first year, the awards have been publicly broadcast, at first by radio. It began to be telecast after 1953. The formal ceremony is televised live in more than 200 countries annually. The Oscars is also the oldest award ceremony in the media with its equivalents,the Grammy Awards (for music), Emmy Awards (for television), and Tony Awards (for theatre)modelled after it.
The most recognized trophy in the world, the Oscar statuette shows a knight holding a crusader’s sword, standing on a reel of film with five spokes. The five spokes symbolize the original branches of the Academy: Actors, Writers, Directors, Producers and Technicians.
The gold nude statue has stood on the mantels of the greatest filmmakers in history since1929 and still remains the piece de resistance for every celebrity. Officially named the Academy Award of Merit, the statuette is better known by its nickname, Oscar. While the origins of the moniker aren’t clear, a popular story has it that upon seeing the trophy for the first time, Academy librarian (and eventual executive director) Margaret Herrick remarked that it resembled her Uncle Oscar.
Due to a metal shortage during World War II, Oscars were made of painted plaster for three years. Following the war, the Academy invited recipients to redeem the plaster figures for gold-plated metal ones. The first recipient of the award was Emil Jannings, who was named Best Actor for his performances in “The Last Command” and “The Way of All Flesh” in 1929
Manufactured by R.S. Owens & Company, Oscar stands 13½ inches tall and weighs in at a robust 8½ pounds. Over 2,700 gold-plated statuettes have been handed out since MGM art director Cedric Gibbons designed what is now arguably the most recognized trophy in the world. Around 50 statuettes are produced yearly in 3-4 weeks time.
The nominees who win an Oscar, have to sign a ‘winners’ agreement’ in which they commit to never sell the Academy’s Awards without first offering the Oscars back to the AMPAS for a fee of USD 1. This is the Academy’s way of controlling the trophies that go on sale. Theywant to make sure that no award arrives in the hands of private collectors.
If someone refuses to sign the agreement, the Academy is entitled to keep the award. AMPAS began issuing this kind of agreements in 1951. Experts speculate that more than 140 Academy Awards have been sold since the first ceremony.
Pricewaterhouse (now PricewaterhouseCoopers) has managed the Academy Awards balloting process since 1935 - all but the first six years of the Oscars. Ever since 1941, when their now-famous confidential envelope system was introduced, marking the first year of complete secrecy, that prompted the Academy in 1941 to adopt the sealed-envelope system still in use today.
All awards have been based on openings in the previous calendar year with the films to be over 40 minutes long to qualify as feature-length. The race for the Academy Award nomination is another eye-grabbing feature with the actors and directors going greatlengths to promote their film. Studios have often engaged in expensive marketing andadvertising campaigns to sway votes, and to encourage contractual loyalty during voting.
The “race” to be nominated consists principally of attempts by studios, independent distributors and publicists to make sure that each of the nearly 6,000 voting members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences sees their film. It means special screenings for Academy members, free admission to commercial runs of a film, and the mailing of DVDs.
The Academy aggressively monitors Award campaigning and has issued regulations that limit company mailings to those items that actually assist members in their efforts to assess the artistic and technical merits of a film. Nomination ballots are mailed to the Academy’s active members in late December and are due back to PricewaterhouseCoopers in January.
Regular awards are presented for outstanding individual or collective film achievements in up to 25 categories. However, within the Animated Feature Film and Foreign Language Filmcategories, nominations are selected by vote of multi-branch screening committees.
The eight main categories for nominations are: Best Picture, Best Production, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress and Best Screenplay or writer.
After final ballots are tabulated, only two partners of PricewaterhouseCoopers know the results until the famous envelopes are opened onstage during the Academy Awards presentation.
Apart from the entire hullabaloo surrounding the coveted award the ‘unpredictability’ factor is the main feature of Oscars. Top Box-Office films aren't always guaranteed award success. A perfect instance can be cited by the 2009 Academy Award for Best Picture going to ‘The Hurt Locker’ directed by Kathryn Bigelow. The film toppled the most touted film of the decade ‘Avatar’ shot in 3D by director James Cameron of Titanic fame.
India’s honeymoon with the Oscar began in the year 2001when Aamir Khan starrer ‘Lagaan’ went on to be nominated in the Best Foreign film category though it lost to ‘No Man’s land.’ Before that Bhanu Athaiya became the first Indian to win the Oscar for Best Costume for the 1982 film ‘Gandhi’.
The real proud moment for India came when the maverick British director, Danny Boyle’s film ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ swept the 2008 Oscar awards in eight categories. The film was shot in India and featured Indian actors including Anil Kapoor, Freida Pinto and Irrfan Khan. It won the Oscars for best film, best original score, best screenplay, best song, and best sound mixing among others. Music maestro A.R. Rahman won two Oscars. Lyricist Gulzar won it for best song and Resul Pookkutty won it for sound mixing.
Apart from tears welling up from the eyes on receiving the coveted award, hosting the gala award night is equally prestigious. Actress Anne Hathaway along with actor James Franco hosted the 2011 Oscar ceremony though they received lots of flak for their delivery.
With more than 80 years of its inception the Academy award continues to stand alone as a testament of superior achievement to the most gifted and skilled artists and craftsmen in the motion picture world.
“There are a lot of great movies that have won the Academy Award, and a lot of great movies that haven't. But you just do the best you can.”
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